Debbie E.

A very interesting week for me. It was so useful to write down what I love to do and realised for me how exciting I find dyeing fabric and tray dyeing large pieces of cloth in different ways and how the anticipation of unveiling to reveal what is there is what I love the most. I will spend more time on this now as I love it. 

I would also like to build up layers and textures within my work and will work towards this by developing these skills. I also want to put energy into my work and think this will come from creating the fabric.

There were a lot of things I do well, making bags, quilting etc but these do not give me the heartfelt warmth that I get from creating fabric, a very interesting exercise and love that I have it all in writing. I am finding out so much about myself.

Writing out what matters to me, family, friends, running, creating, nature, travel. This made me think about the Kuna Indians reverse appliqué that I love to look at and bought a piece of their work and I love this and the story, very interesting that I wrote this down again hidden clouds and depth in work.

I have had my niece round this week and we have done some screen printing together and also painted a design on a t shirt for her to wear to school for children in need.

What would perfection in my work look like it I achieved this?

Fantastic fabrics with depths of colour, that I can use to develop and create lovely landscapes and forests, a calm place to look at and explore. One day I hope to get to this place.

June M.

This was a very difficult lesson for me. I am struggling mightily for alignment. I love having a word for it now.

To start, I did my skills inventory. Doing the inventory made me realize that I have good technical skills, sewing, piecing, quilting, hand embroidery, dyeing and color mixing. I follow instructions well. I execute patterns brilliantly and can often figure out how something is done without a pattern. My management and computer skills are good. I can do a heck of a spreadsheet! I lack drawing and design skills.

When I was younger I played the violin. I could read the music and make the notes. After years of practice I played even played in tune most of the time. As an adult I took lessons from a wonderful musician who played in the Symphony and in a Bluegrass band. He was everything I wanted to be in a musician. I appreciated the classical music but also wanted to experience the fun and freedom of Bluegrass. It is all about improvisation. He tried to teach me. After many attempts he said I would be the only Bluegrass musician in the world who had to bring a music stand on stage. I had to laugh at that because he was right. I had the technical skills, I didn't have the soul for it at that time. That's where I am with my art. I have good technical skills and I am searching for my soul.

Many of the things we've touched on in this class I already had floating around in my head. Writing about it has made it real. When I think about what I love to do, I love it all. Mostly I love to learn something new, to try something hard and know I conquered it. I love the process and that may be enough. I need more reflection and writing. I'm not ready to commit to what's ahead. It's still an open question. It is my Bluegrass challenge.

As for a piece of work to share, I have not done any significant fiber work for a while. I recently took a mixed media class on collage and am sharing that piece. The instructor brought the supplies so I was working with limits and that was good. I love Kokopellis and they are one of the few things I am comfortable drawing. I love the joy of these figures. I feel that in this piece when I look at it. I like the airy look of the trees and the contrast between sky and ground. Looking at the Kokopelli next to the trees it's a giant. If it were smaller it would be more in proportion. The Kokopelli also fades into the ground. If I had considered a light source it could have been highlighted and there could have been more variation on the ground to make it more interesting. Even with flaws, I enjoy this piece, maybe because I really enjoyed the class and felt very free in it.

Barbara D.

As I work on our lesson about what Alignment looks like to each of us.  Well, I am reminded to cherish my family, my friends – tellthem oftenhow impossibly important they are … then enlarge that circle and continue to do the right thing, to work hard and be my best self.  That is my alignment.

There are three of us in this CST class that are also dear friends – we meet weekly to discuss the details and share our intimate thoughts of each lesson.  It’s a wonderful time one I would not miss.  We are learning so much about each other and have a safe place to echo our thoughts.

Part 1:  Skills

  • I’m a good wife, friend and neighbor.
  • I'm a good equestrian- accomplished yet constantly realizing there's always more to learn in the refinement of my skill set and that of our horses.
  • I’m a good cook, gardener and well skilled in my profession.

As I compose this list, I must take a moment to acknowledge how grateful I feel.   I live a full and blessed life.

  • Relative to my artwork, I have a good use of color.  I am solidifying my skills in dyeing fabrics.  I am skilled in most components of actually sewing and construction skills.  

Part 2:  Heart’s Desire

As I rate my skills, my art work is much lower on the list that I would like it to be.  However, I also realize that my art provides a quiet contrast to the active physical life of the commitment we have to the ranch.  It’s contemplative and rewarding in the processes.  It’s an avenue where I build and enjoy my skills and the friendships of those with the same interests.

Part 3:  Wannabe Skills

Initially, when I first began to discover the limitless artistic design methods, I wanted to learn them all.  I found myself experimenting (which I liked first) on all of them.  Recently, I have reined myself in and decided to look around and choose one method at a time, then slowly build my repertoire of skills and they are accomplished.  I want to feel like I have a good understanding of each concept before I go onto the next.  And importantly, how to use each of those methods in my work.

  • I want to learn more principles of design and be able to transfer that concept into each piece.
  • I want the intuition  to know what needs to be done next for an impactful visual effect. 
  • I want to take my artwork to the next level.  I am committed to that goal.
  • I want to strengthen my style and voice.  This is where I struggle the most.
  • I want to be more compassionate and graceful.
  • I want to be accomplished at whatever I choose to undertake.  Whether it be with my art work, my profession, with my family, as I cook, as I ride … whatever it is.  It’s my inner desire to be the best I can be at what I choose to do. 

Part 4:  Perfection

Perfection to me is BALANCE.  It is a quiet soul and a peaceful mind – harmony in my life.

So … if I take “balance” and transfer it to my artwork – then I need to create each piece with balance as the core of the composition. 

Part 2 – Sitting with your work.  This is one of our Study in Color series completed earlier in the year.  In review, I like the piece as a whole – it has good eye appeal from a distance although without the right light can look a bit dark.  I feel like it was a simple piece to construct and “get done”.  If I created this piece again, it could hold a bit more detail for close up eye appeal. 

Copper Patina – 2016

Copper Patina – 2016

Darlynn E.

I really found this concept of Alignment fascinating. I am still struggling with learning to make and take time. I liked making the list of things I am good at, and things I wannabe good at because I found that there are similarities. It’s all about getting to that “perfection” stage.  One of my problems is that I want to try everything. Trying to focus myself and limit my global thinking is difficult. It all goes back to an early lesson of setting priorities.  This was a quilt I made for my Art Group . It was a challenge called “Self Portrait.” I didn’t want to do a typical portrait so I chose to depict myself at a Quilt Show viewing a quilt.  I wanted to create a whole cloth quilt using quilting stiches as the main focus. I like the theme of using the sections of the shell to highlight different stitches and colors. I used Shiva Paint Sticks in the border to continue the circle theme. I really like this quilt but would have been happier if I could have somehow made the sections of the shell more prominent. Perhaps I could have achieved this with adding some beads that had more sparkle to them. 

Even though I loved the first Contemplation quilt I felt I could somehow improve on the dullness of the circles and decided to try another Contemplation Quilt. I used a couching technique and created my circles using Metallic yarn and graffiti quilting. The subject of the portrait this time was my granddaughter. The circle theme was extended to the border by couching circles. The final sparkle was added with crystals. I have found by doing these two quilts that one of the things I love to do is free motion quilting when it is actually part of the original piece, instead of the finishing touch.  I am still analyzing on how I could improve and make it better.

Carla D.

What Does Alignment Look Like for You? 

When I first read the essay on alignment, I really struggled with it.  It's just not easy for me to think about my own skills.  I did make a list and I did think about what I love to do and what I want to learn. 

But what really hit me was the paragraph that said, "Being in alignment doesn't mean you're always happy and in love with the task at hand.  It does mean you do the tedious stuff willingly because you know it's a non-negotiable part of making.  Plus you're pretty sure it will be worth it." 

The work I have been doing in the last few years is tedious to say the least.  I use Aquamesh, small pieces of fabric, tweezers, and thread and I can't be sure that the top layer will work until I put it into water so the Aquamesh disappears, and I have nothing but a fragile piece of netting.  Finding a background fabric that will work can be another challenge.  I have asked myself many times, "why are you doing all this?"  The answer is, when it works, I really like it. Why?  I've always loved mozaic because of all those small pieces and how they fit together to make a whole.  Also, I have a belief that small actions,(pieces) make a difference.  When small acts of loving kindness come together, it can create big change for good.  

I still have a lot of work to do before I even begin to see perfection.  I want to try to use fabric paint to make my own background fabric and I want to get better with content.  This lesson has made me think and write. 

The first quilt is called Water: Precious resource.  I like the splash of blue with the orange coming through but I don't like the shape of the top. Also, I wish I had carried through with the "sky" of orange instead of leaving part of it pure background.  The top piece does not hang well because of that. 

The second piece is one of my favorites.  "Tiger in Tall Grass": Tiger hiding in tall grass;  Camouflaged strength and patience; Waiting, resting, watching; is the artist statement.  Because the pieces are a larger, the work hangs better and I like the asymmetry of tiger.  I hate that humans have killed so many of these beautiful animals.

Jane M.

Here is where thinking about alignment has taken me.

I have thought a lot about alignment and what I think of as perfection and realise that I am in a quandary over which way to take my felting. I make two types of pieces: pieces naturally dyed after felting and those using bought dyed materials . No real reason not to continue the two in parallel, except I feel guilty when I use the bought materials. Even when I think what I have made is good , I am thinking but it's not naturally dyed that is what you want to do ! I think I have a natural dye committee !! 

In addition I have developed two different techniques for the two different processes . Not deliberately it just happened. I have a fluid flexible very easy to manipulate technique with coloured materials and a far more cumbersome technique when I used natural dyeing.

I am beginning to think this is a mistake , my natural dye technique results in a beautiful collection of shades of colours but with only a limited range of actual colours in each piece , so have the tendency not to be very exciting or dynamic. The felting technique gives far less scope and is far more difficult. 

Maybe there is a way to merge the two .  

To do this I would have to pre dye the raw materials, fibres fabric and yarns . I could then use my easy flexible felting technique on this naturally dyed raw material . If I dye my mixed natural materials in the same dye pots I will get the same beautiful collections of shades but have a far greater scope to make exciting lively pieces.

This would make enable me to make to connected pieces, natural and commercial dyed that were part of a family which they are currently not. I think this would be on its way to perfection for me. 

Lots of experimentation ahead ! I am very excited , I just need to sort my studio out before I start. 

Make Time to think

Make Time to combine and meld 

The best of both worlds 

Julia J.

I haven’t posed or read posts the last two weeks but have been able to keep up with the homework. I’ve journaled, utilized set aside time for creating, read (on my second book from the suggested reading list), work through, played with all the guided instruction and each week met with a few CST friends.  Hopefully I’ll be able to catch up on the posts soon. I’ve missed that connection and sense of unity and excitement.

Week 6 – 

Part 1

A thorough inventory… done and on a spreadsheet so that I may add or edit at anytime. When I got together with friends yesterday we shared our intimate lists with each other. Once each of us read our list , the other two were then able to add assets to that person’s inventory. Powerful, bonding, enlightening, moving and friendship building. I love these ladies. Why is it that others can see so clearly what is unseen right in front of us?

Part 2

What do I love to do?

My phrase for the year a couple years back was ‘defining my style’… Wow was this an adventure… Another friend of mine who is also in this CST group and I got together every Thursday for nearly a year. Each week we tried different techniques. Our experience together has filled my toolbox with endless possibilities. We’re finding our individual voice in this fiber art world and we still get together for play dates fairly regularly. It’s a fabulous journey we’ve embarked on.

I love to do different things, try different techniques. I’ve discovered I didn’t think I wanted to be put in a mold or particular style. However when I was working so hard trying to define it, one day a non-artist, non-quilter friend said that they saw one of my pieces somewhere and knew it was mine before they read who it was because of it’s style…  “It was so you!”… My style has found me whatever it is…

Part 3

Wannabe skills – Signed up for a workshop!

Part 4

Perfectionism

What does perfectionism look like to me? First response… exhausting. A teacher once lovingly yet pointedly told me: “Of coarse you haven’t finished, it gives you a chance to be perfect” In other words I was so concerned about it being just right, being perfect that I held myself back from completing the piece.

    Now after completing week 6 here is what I’ve come up with:

Small accurate smooth seamed piecing with a steadfast design that intrigues the viewer from different distances across space. Little surprises throughout, some so subtle that they may go unnoticed by some viewers. A treat with new discovery each time it is viewed. Small intricate detail. I’ve been told to simplify, I’ve been told I’m too anal: two statements that I’ve discovered have tied me down. The ropes have been cut. I am free. 

Themes and variations

Part 1

I’ve gotten away from this and appreciated this exercise

Part 2

SAQA – View From above ‘Inman Rail Yard’ By Julia Jeans

The Inman Railroad yard represented here is one of the major railroad yards of the Norfork Southern railway and houses a portion of the operation’s 3648 locomotives and 79,082 freight cars.

The artist hand dyed, painted, discharged and deconstructed most of the fabrics (cotton, wool, velvet, linen and burlap). It’s been machine pieced, embroidered and quilted. The beads representing the rail cars are all hand made using the same creative fabrics and are embellished with wire, fibers and beads. Random ‘gears’ found throughout the quilt are from reclaimed jewelry.

Strength: Solid composition, Captures attention from a far and draws the viewer in to view more subtle detail. Many techniques from my toolbox were utilized. I love that 99% of the viewers think it is a cathedral window from afar.

Weakness: Not enough contrast, too ‘matchy matchy’. The commercial Fabric used at the top of the piece should have been hand painted, more subdued.

Vernon S.

REFLECTIONS

 

    In the void between

    the folded layers of time

    far from home, alone

    in need of an other,

    I seek genesis

    And part from my self,        

    separtiung the light

    from the dark;

    And I am face-to-face

    Like Janus, looking at the past

    But seeing the future.

    And I  give birth to now.    

    And I gaze at the unfamiliar;

    yet, with a sense that 

    I am seeing it anew,

    ... it reminds me of home.

    home is beyond the horizon;

    which I can never reach, 

    even at relativit speed,    

    yet I can 

    feel the warmth

    of an other's reflection

    in the glossy obsidian 

    and smoky topaz

    of the ruins

    where I have landed.

    I write in my little book, 

    unimportant notes which mirror

    my speculations about who

    and as I attempt to speak the  

    thought aloud, a spark of no thing

    pierces the veil of protection, the 

    flames of understanding burn away 'the clouds of unknowing

and I am become an other,

an endless reflection  of being and             

not being, of no thing snd some thing.        

    And on the broken wings of nemesis

    I am carried aloft and dropped

    on a mountaintop,

    cloud hidden, whereabouts unknown.

Michèle K.

I made a list of my skills ;
For what is connected to the threads : I have a good knowledge in : 

general sewing ( making clothes, accessories, toys etc, even if I use it less often now) sewingmachine work : free motion quilting, embroidery : I love that.
Hand work : embroidery ( I like the free embroidery), knitting : ok but not great fun, crochet : a bit less boring / free form crochet is more fun, you just make useless stuff

I would like to improve my work with transparency, fragile fabric, 3 D work and manipulation of fabric. 

For colors : I have a medium knowledge in dyeing, colouring, painting, waxing. It is attracting for me, and I am working to improve.
I am working as well to improve my drawing capacities ( starting at a low level !) 

For various others things : Medium knowledge in woodwork, photography and felting.
beginner level in pottery ( I love that )
Good at "cartonnage" ( I don' t know the word in English : making boxes and that type of stuff in cardboard)
Good at gardening. 

What I would like to learn : paper and book binding. 

Perfection

Looking for perfection for me might be like installing a brake in my capacity of working ( and that is the last thing I need !) I don't mean that I am not trying to do my best every time, but at some stage I know that I can't ( don't want ?, don't know?) do better.
Perfection and ideal can't be reached. If it could, what to dream about afterwards? 

Writing

I am experimenting for the last weeks how much I like writing. I think I had forgotten that pleasure. (Well, I must confess that it is more a pleasure to write in French for me !)
Writing helps the toughts to become clearer. I like that sentence of Boileau : Ce qui se conçoit bien s'énonce clairement et les mots pour le dire arrivent aisément, which is something like " what is well conceived is said clearly and the words to say it come easily". Writing is helping me to think, remember, organise, estimate. And I need to write more. 

Analysis of a piece

I choose a piece that I like, made about two years ago.
Long ago, I saw there was a competition around the word "Enchevêtrement" ("tangle, jumble"). I didn't try to enter the competition, but I kept the word in my head.
One day, during a walk around home, I saw a ivy growing on an old windmill, it reminded me the thema of that exhibition .

I like that piece but I can't define its strength, I don't know where it is. I know that I had no plans when I started to make it, and I took a few months to make it, with lots of interruptions, because i didn't know where to go next.
When I look at it now, I don't see a beginning and a end in it, it is long and narrow, and it could go on like that, a long tunnel .For me that is a weakness. And it is probably due to the fact that I didn't worked before on the idea, on paper. 

It is a intuitive work, it has a special meaning for me and I still like it. For the people who see it, I am not sure I was able to make them guess the idea of "enchevêtrement ". I think I overdid it, and would be more significant with less knots and twists. 

Maria S.

A large problem for me, this alignment.  Not a question of how much time I spend in my studio, but using that time in the best possible way.

I feel like the proverbial Jack of all Trades!  I am constantly on the search for "my thing".  I sew, embroider, draw, paint watercolor, oil and acrylic, I dye and print fabric, I collage all kinds of things, I bind books and create vessels.  I do love it all but have tried to make some kind of priority list, knowing that this will change from time to time.  So I guess this list of loves will be good for now. 

Although I know that we each have a personal style as unique as our own signature, I find myself always searching for mine.  Maybe I'm searching too hard and should just let it happen.

About perfection:  I wrote a paragraph about what my dream art life would be like if I could have whatever I wanted and had no one to please but myself.  It was a fun exercise indeed!  I won't write all the details here but it made me set a few goals for myself.  It also let me see that these goals are not impossible.

And finally, I did a critique of a piece I made this past summer.  I applied for acceptance in an important exhibition and was refused.  Perfect moment for self analysis.  It is called "The Unseen Women" and is 2x1.2 meters large.  After reviewing this piece, I know exactly why it wasn't accepted.

1.  I didn't start with a written plan.  I usually do, but for some reason skipped this step.  A recipe for disaster.

2.  I worked with a kind of nervousness that was self destructive.  The less time I have in the studio, the faster I think I need to work.  This can be a waste of time in the end.

3.  I did not engage the principle elements of design.  No focal point, no contrast, no balance, no obvious story follow through.

And here is what I like about it:

1.  The drawings.  They show the emotion I wanted to portray. 

2.  The fact that it looks like a brick wall until you walk up close and the various women are revealed. (They are the real support of the structure!) This is in direct contrast to having a focal point, but it creates a moment of surprise.

3.  The texture created by the use of rice paper and paint in the wall.

From now on I will write a short critique of each piece I make.  I found it very helpful.

Donna W.

What alignment means to me

I turned to the dictionary to jumpstart my thinking about this assignment and found these synonyms for alignment, all of which were pleasing to me: harmony, pattern, plan, symmetry, unity, coordination, design, congruency. With these word images in mind, I realized that my natural inclination is to crave alignment, in everything. But because I’m an obsessive, I tend to take things to extremes, even alignment. My quest for harmony, pattern and plan can resemble other synonyms for alignment: conformation, regulation, standardization. It’s a challenge for me to stay grounded in the positive aspects of alignment without slipping into the obsessive aspects, which for me are the antithesis of creativity and flow. This is good to know!

These musings led me to think about my yoga practice. I’ve always been attracted to Iyengar yoga (that obsessive personality again!), for which alignment is the cornerstone – not only physical alignment in the postures as a means of protecting joints and muscles, but also the alignment of the physical and energy layers of our being. On a deeper level, Iyengar yoga recognizes the alignment of the individual to the collective. Iyengar practitioners see human beings as afloat in a vast sea of energy; by learning how to align ourselves with the flow of all these currents, they believe, we can develop the talent to navigate in this sea in the same way a skilled sailor can learn to steer a ship through uncertain tides. A lofty goal that will take me many lifetimes to understand, let alone master!

How does alignment come into play in my art? I’ve always known that as a journalist, I much preferred reporting to writing. Gathering information, doing research, especially at the outset of an assignment, excited me. Taking all that information and crafting it into a cohesive story often was a chore. The unfortunate result of this imbalance caused me to over-report as a “circling” activity to postpone the moment when I had to start to write, producing stress and sometimes causing me to miss deadlines. I had to learn to discipline myself by following the advice of one of my mentors, who told me to buckle down and write a first draft early to help me learn what I didn’t know yet.

I’m finding that I also need to apply discipline to my fledgling love of surface design. I tend to want to skimp on preparation and get right to the main event, with less than stellar results. An unwillingness to properly prepare a piece of fabric with soda ash recently resulted in a very washed-out example of ice dyeing. I know that if I want the best result, I need to lay a proper foundation, which will require a lot of study and a great deal of humility to continually ask for help from artists who have been at this much longer than I have. I will need to overcome my fear that I don’t have enough time to do this “right.” At the same time, aware that my sometimes overly analytical approach can veer into obsession, and knowing that I have that circling thing going on that allows me to focus only on those parts of a project that I enjoy, I need to “do” as I learn – fearlessly and unselfconsciously – to avoid those negative aspects of alignment.

Micaela F.

I appreciated this lesson. It helped me focus on elements of my work and life that are easily left unconsidered.

Skills:

Experimenting/questioning/exploring/ being open minded/ problem solving.

Working with people/developing consensus /being flexible

Organizing

Working with colour/ Working spontaneously/improvisationally/ Working in grids/with repetition/ Piecing, Machine stitching/ Free motion embroidery/ hand embroidery/ general sewing/Stencilling/Dyeing/ Printmaking – etching, collagraphs, silkscreen…

Design/Writing/Editing/ Building/installing carpentry, framing, etc/…what I do all day at the museum

Playing guitar – mostly blues and folk

The Desert Island…bring pretty much everything! Maybe leave the organizing behind! Maybe spread everything all over the island!

Skills to Learn (high on the list, among many others)

Resist dyeing without wax/Beading/Playing the Dobro/Cooking with tofu (just need to make the time for these)

Skills to Strengthen

Visual principles (keeping all the elements of line, form, colour, abstraction, etc., etc., in my head and at my fingertips, at all times, so that I can readily apply them… and break them where appropriate.)

Eco-dyeing and more control in dyeing in general (stronger understanding/competence in getting the outcome/results I’m looking for, rather than merely being content with the happy accident.)

Embroidery – machine and hand – a wider range of techniques

Organization (I apply it well in some parts of my life, but other areas are more “organized chaos”)

Committing to work with mastery/Being patient with the tediousness of making – I’m an idea person. But often ideas are not brought to fruition because of my impatience with the processes involved.

More playing and singing

Writing

Perfection – I’m not a perfectionist. In fact, I’m rather impatient (but hopefully not lazy or careless). The closest I’ve come to perfection is when I work with clear intention. And it seems that viewers’ responses to those pieces are usually the strongest when compared to other pieces. For me perfection would be a stronger grasp of subtlety and nuance, and the ability to communicate it. With more practice, and thoughtful consideration, I may approach it, but I don’t believe that I seek perfection itself as a goal. Rather I seek the ability express myself and to communicate well.

Writing is not something I usually do related to my art. However, I am beginning to understand its benefit. Writing, or at least thinking about what I might write, has already generated a number of new creative thoughts. Normally, I tend to wait for inspiration, even though I know that’s not effective. Writing, forces one to ponder and to clarify creative impulses, and I’m already surprised at the new inspiration and ideas that have been a result of this exercise…. For example, I love working improvisationally/spontaneously, and I also love working with grids. I have often considered these in opposition – one free, one constrained or constraining. I haven’t taken the time to rationalize this thinking, but now, considering them as skills that I have and enjoy working with, changes my view of how to use them creatively. I felt previously that I had to struggle with these two opposing forces, almost as if they were adversaries, but in recognizing them as skills, I see now they pose a wonderful creative challenge… working improvisationally within a grid (and there are many grids!) … no idea where this will go, but I’m going to embrace it. It makes my mind buzz and I can see/feel its potential.

An aside: Speaking of contrasting or opposingskills/mindsets, I just read this article. It seemed to me to compliment this week’s lesson.

http://www.matthewschuler.co/why-creative-people-sometimes-make-no-sense/

Analyzing “Night: The Path”

This piece is from a number years ago. The design/form is based on Kuba cloth from the Congo. It’s nearly 18 ft long. It was made when I was working on series inspired by the talks given by Stephen Lewis, who helped focus the world’s attention on the crisis of AIDS, poverty and war in Africa. The story line of the piece was a response to news reports of children had to walk daily from their villages and schools, to sleep in “safe camps” so they would not be captured and forced to become child soldiers.

Overall, I’m please with this work, and proud of it. Authenticity of form was important to me in this series. The Kuba wrap/skirt form includes repeating patterns in a grid and contrasting borders. The silhouettes of individuals (taken, with permission, from photographs of Congolese children), walking as in along march, were printed on muslin from a collagraph plate on an etching press. The opposite pattern of a tiny random checkerboard grid is where I see the weakness. I wanted a simple but dynamic pattern that would not take away from the pattern of silhouettes. There should have been more thought and experimentation with this element of the piece until I came up with the right design (something that reinforced its authenticity, something with related symbolism. There are many grid-type patterns in African woven cloth that contain specific meaning). To me these sections don’t come across as well integrated with the rest of the piece and weakens it.

It all goes back to intention and nuance.

Karol K.

I like big art.  I think it makes a powerful statement.  I recently learned that I get to do a solo exhibit of my portrait work next summer.  Yay!  I decided that I need a BIG piece for that exhibit.  So I started this grandma piece, channeling my own grandmother, and a dear friend who was grandmotherly.  I have just jazzed her up by adding some trimmings from an old pieced quilt.  It makes her more interesting and authentic, though abstractish.

I have also been obsessed with hand quilting a queen size quilt for a customer.  I have just finished it, and she will pick it up tomorrow.  I started it in early October, taking it with me on a three week vacation trip. 

I generally don’t hand quilt for others, but this quilt needed it, so I agreed to do it.  I do finish quilts for others, on a longarm machine.  I wish I could spend more time on my art, but then I wouldn’t have any mad money.  I’m grateful to have a hobby/business that I love doing.

Sharon C.

Evaluating Work

If asked my favorite quilt, I would have to respond that I have two favorites:  the one I’m working on and the one I’m planning.

Yesterday I finished quilting a piece I started several months ago in a class.  Quilting is what I’ve been doing this past week, as I have several that need to get done.  Admittedly, quilting is not my favorite task.  It seems tedious and stressful to me.  I primarily like creating.  Yes, I know I could send my quilts out to be quilted.  I do not do free motion quilting, probably because when I have tried it, I am extremely critical of my work and that is what I try to avoid—self-criticism.  I do linear stitches and grids, which at first I’m highly critical about—until several days later—then upon review, it seems the right thing and can’t imagine swirls and loops in place of my lines and grids.

That being said, this week I finished quilting two quilts that I sort of feel were a series only because I did more than one with something of a general theme.  Several months ago I downloaded some public domain photos the Government made available.  The photos were mostly Depression-era photos, but primarily Dorothea Lange’s work.  The photos I was familiar with always engaged and moved me so I wanted to see what I could do with them in a quilt.  Evidently I had three quilts in me—two of which I just finished and the first I sold as soon as it was completed.  It’s the most recent one I have chosen to discuss.

I created the quilt in a Rosalie Dace class and because I had just finished constructing quilt #2—Dorothea’s Faces (Figure 1)—and had the box of fabrics sitting around when it was time for the class, I used those fabrics.  This particular class emphasized the use of alternative materials, and I used a variety in this quilt.  So I ended up incorporating what I considered some unusual items and the results of a couple of exercises in the quilt.

I think of these quilts as narrative quilts, and my goal is to engage the viewer (including me) into looking more closely at the story.  The quilt I’m discussing (Figure 2) is called “Fractured Families,” and I hope it reflects pathos.  But I digress.  With the back story complete, on with the discussion!

1.  Strengths.  I have good feelings about this piece, and since I just completed it (well, sans facing), as I suggested in my opening paragraph, it is one of my two favorites.  I think it works, and color placement moves the eye.  The photos create interest, and I think that the use of various papers and collage work add interest and a bit of texture.  I like adding bits and pieces of photos or even traditional piecing such as triangles and log cabin work to add variety.

2.  Perfection.  This quilt is far from what someone might think of as perfect, but it is, in my mind, perfect for me.  I say that because I crossed a bridge on this one and based on encouragement from Rosalie, I not only used alternative materials but used alternative methods for construction—giving me parts that are totally offset, random, and I believe interesting stitches—which has been a goal of mine:  create in a way that seems unplanned and unpredictable and is—at this point—my own form of perfection.

3.  Weaknesses.  I tend to think of my quilting as a weakness—until I am finished with the project and it soaks in for a few days.  So that is why I do my own quilting I suppose—because I get the look and feel I want from the lines and grids I use.  What I need to practice with is lines that seem “wilder” and more random and criss-cross like because that is the thing I like most about this piece is how I attached some of the fabrics and papers with multiple lines.

4.  What I’m good at.  I think I’m good at the effective use of color and have a good sense of composition—well, most of the time.  I have developed (I believe) my own voice and have something of a “style” that I comfortable with, although I tend to always feel I’m on the verge of getting where I want to be artistically.  I’m also decent at creating strong and interesting digital designs and that tends to be a favorite and relaxing way to spend studio time. 

Although I appreciate a “perfectly” constructed quilt, that is not me, and my idea of perfection is to reflect flaws and imperfection.  I call is “messy” but I know that’s a value judgment, but I’m not sure of a better term other than random, unplanned, or unpredictable.  Those are the things for which I strive to accomplish in each quilt I’m making these days—but with the full knowledge that it can change with the next creation!

Sue K.

I listed my skills, and there were a lot of them, and I felt fortunate to have them; writing, business, mathematics, rcooking, organizing, and learning, sewing skills, pattern drafting, pattern grading and tailoring; operation and maintenance of vintage sewing machines; hand embroidery, beading, applique and macrame; traditional and improv quilt piecing.  I am handy with a camera and a computer, and somewhat skilled in photo editing and manipulation using digital means. These skills are all mine because I enjoy them, or have at some point in my life. There are some I use infrequently now.

 

Then I listed all the skills I would like to have, or improve. These include textile manipulations and various surface design methods. I want to learn more about design principles, composition. I could do better with some drawing practice. I use color exuberantly, but maybe need to do it more purposefully. I have enjoyed dabbling with simple monoprinting, but would like to learn screen printing some day, and do more with paint, inks, dyes, stencils and stamps, to add layers of patterning to the cloth I use in my pieces. I want to explore more ways of making art quilts, especially incorporating a broader range of materials.

 

I realized, in thinking about all this that I tend to learn something very well, very quickly and then move on to something new. I hope this is not altogether a bad way to be, because it is who I am. I do need to improve my focus though, and through this course, and particularly through writing, I’m beginning to see how to do that. I am not sure that I can or should seek perfection, but I do seek personal satisfaction in my work. Following on that thought, I moved to the self evaluation exercise.

 

The inspiration for this piece is a photo I took on top of Mauna Kea on Hawaii Island, at sunset. The shadow of the setting sun was projected across the island, the sea, and the sky into the east.

The quilt itself is 11” x 17”. I named it Mauna a Wakea (the mountain that belongs to Wakea the “sky father” of Hawaiian legend).

Strengths    

  • The composition and shapes reflect what I intended, and please me. 
  • The way I produced the shadow, with black tulle, worked pretty well.
  • I like the clouds. 
  • I like the quilting concept, but not necessarily the execution.
  • I have learned a lot more about fused applique since I made this, but it was
  • fairly good for my point on the learning curve at the time.

Weaknesses

  • The fabrics were what I had in my stash and are not quite right in terms of color, texture, or consistency/compatibility with each other. They suggest what I was going for but could be much more attractive.
  • The fabric I used for the sky is dull and lifeless, and deadens the picture in spite of the colored quilting threads.
  • The quilting threads were just what was at hand, and should have been in slightly brighter colors, or perhaps a shinier thread, that would help to suggest the luminosity of the actual scene I saw.
  • The piece is too literal, and too small.

Alignment

Though I was pleased with the effort, I am not satisfied with this piece. I feel like this was a good first try and functions well as a maquette for what it ultimately could be. I found the experience of seeing this phenomenon so compelling that I am still interested in trying to render it more to my liking. I would choose different fabrics, curated carefully, and perhaps consider some other surface treatments to convey the meaning I perceive in the image. And I would make it larger.

Vernon S.

1. WEEK SIX   -  Alignment

If there is a book that I HATE and  refuse to reread or even own a copy of, iit, perhaps it is sychronicity at work , it would have to be the one which is quoted at the start OFF THE ESSAY.

Do not interpret this as anti-muslim, the KORAN is a personal FAVORITE

The story behind it contains wounds that are too raw to disturb at present.

WHAT ARE MY SKILLS, WHAT DO I LOVE:

I love working with my hands, the tactile contact is extremely important.

To  be honest, I  LAUGH at the  mixed media gook that is popular where someone writes the word ART on a canvas, embelishes it, and expects the viewer to have an “out of body experience.”

I do not find that remotely interesting.  To eACH THEIR OWN.  Some may call that ART, I Do not, nor do I make that claim for my own work.  I do NOT even  CLAIM nor think I am  ABLE TO DEFINE WHAT is art?  I do know that some things are NOT Art.  THEY ARE OPIATES FOR THE MASSES, that are poor substitutes for  religion, that  is just  my opinion, not a  condemnation.  

If someone wants to stand on a street corner and paint  landscapes with a cup of his or her  own feces, that is their right, but do not ask me to call it art. <grin>

Below is a small ceramic.  A rose and its leaves are lying on the ground.  We do not know the details of how it got there or why.  We do know there is a story there and I hope you will wonder about it.

That, I believe is the task of the artist, to make us see those moments and wonder.

Work In Progress

Work In Progress

Jean D.

Last week I spent 4 days with a group of talented women I know well at our annual felt making 'retreat' This event has a liberating feel. After some settling in time we get down to work. There is lots of supportive talk and laughter, silences, shared cooking and hearty meals.

Alignment

When we meet we are role models for one another. We take time to do the tedious stuff to come up with the best we can in the end. This is great practice for working alone when we get home. We come away satisfied and refreshed.

One night at home and I am away again helping my daughter with her 6 month old baby, still holding on to last week's inspiration.

This lesson has made me sit up and think. I was telling a friend about it. She immediately gave me a great list of skills which I wouldn't have thought worth mentioning

So I started the list which I will add to with time.

Inventory.
Aligned

  • Knowledge of the differences between different wools and how they work in felt making. But vague, not expert
  • Wide range of felting techniques, traditional and contemporary.This gives a good foundation.
  • Use of texture
  • How other fibres can be felted into wool.
  • Simple printing on fabric Basic level. Still a lot to learn if I wish to pursue this.
  • Dyeing wool
  • Wool carding I have the skill but I seldom use it for achieving the tonal effects that I should be putting into my work.
  • Appreciation of colour and tone
  • Colour contrast/ simple form
  • Art appreciation
  • Practical DIY
  • Sewing
  • Interest in and enjoyment of colour and balance, eg placement of objects for good effect. Writing. But I don't use this skill for note taking, recording of work.

Out of Alignment  

 

 

  • Notebook keeping for recording of work
  • Sketch book/ drawing practice for planning work
  • I think this is the most important improvement I should take on. Thorough preparation - I can be slapdash....what I need to do- Keeping records; weighing out wool; noting measurements. Printing techniques
  • (Computer imaging techniques - an ambitious aim )
  • Overcoming avoidance tendencies
  • Better communication with those closest to me Better use of time

What is perfection?

This is a journey.....work in progress. There are things I know are successful and which I wouldn't improve but I would never regard any piece of work as perfect. Maybe just the best I can do.

Is there such a thing for an artist? Levels of satisfaction change over time. My view of what I have made can change, sometimes from critical to positive after an interval of time for standing back and assessing. Sometimes it is the other way round. But there is a common denominator. Success for me really does lie in forethought and preparation. Also in time made for work and frequency of practice, themes which have already been covered.

Aims and analysis of my own style.

  • Bigger pieces
  • Wall pieces and hangings
  • Angular, geometric, floating
  • To create something beautiful which will inspire a space.

One of my inspirations Anish Kapoor

My work is strong, often minimal, sparsely decorated. I wouldn't ever call it pretty but I want it to be striking. 

Theresa F.

Current skills:

In alignment - I love these things -  stitching of any kind - hand or machine, drawing, collage -  these are things that I currently do and want to do more of, get better at.

Out of alignment - patchwork/ piecing and quilting - expressing myself via these processes for me is always a 'compromise'. I do this stuff most often and it's not satisfactory for for me.  I am no expert - what I produce is mediocre.

New skills I want to explore - dying, shirobi, printing.

Skills I have but not used in a long time - screen printing.

Looking at the more detailed list - I had included dressmaking and knitting garments........a tiny connection was made ......... This is working in 2D rather than flat .......I wondered .......... Is this a direction for my textile practice?  Am a little bit excited.........

Jill W.

What do I love – alignment

Part 1 : Skills

  • Weaving on a dobby loom, counter march loom and hand-loom
  • Dyer of fabric and yarn, wool, cotton, silk 
  • silk-screen printing on fabric
  • batik
  • embroidery, using thread etc.
  • dress-making
  • quilting
  • patchwork
  • ceramic hand-building, press moulding 
  • slip-casting
  • glazing
  • slip decoration
  • collagraph
  • dry-point etching
  • copper etching
  • linocut printmaking
  • gum Arabic transfer printing
  • watercolour painting
  • oil painting
  • acrylic painting
  • drawing, pencil, charcoal, mixed media
  • pen and ink
  • felt-making including nuno
  • raku
  • hand-piercing metal
  • hammering metal
  • intricate wire-work
  • papermaking
  • bookbinding
  • soft toy making
  • teaching art, design, textiles at primary, secondary levels
  • teaching adults
  • interior design skills
  • gardening skills
  • enamelling on copper and steel
  • collage
  • applique
  • house decorating
  • photoshop
  • collecting, placement and arrangment

Part 2 Hearts Desire

  • ceramic hand-building
  • drawing - mixed media, all media
  • collage - placement collecting/collating
  • painting – oil, acrylic, watercolour
  • gardening
  • object making – mixed media

Part 3 Wannabe Skills

I really don’t think I need to add any new skills to my list the problem with me is that I have too many skills and feel I’m always missing out by giving up on something. 

I haven’t touched weaving for 25 years but I can’t sell my loom just in case and it would feel like failure? 

I vowed to give up ceramics last year and go back to weaving but ended up doing neither and feel like I’m falling between the cracks of my life’s work without dedicating to one skill area.

blah blah blah!

So what do I need to strengthen?

I keep going back to painting and drawing….all the workshops I’ve signed up to in recent years have been about achieving an ‘abstracted’ approach to representation using mark making .

  • oil painting
  • drawing
  • hand-building animal form in ceramic

Part 4 Perfection

still working on it….

Susan D.

What Does Alignment Look Like To You?

Alignment for me is when both process and product flow easily. When I can loose myself in it, have fun, be patient with myself during the rough spots and appreciate the outcome. It’s me being me, my authentic self. 

My old concept of perfection, the one that drove me for years is no longer valid. Really taking a good hard look at it this week I realize that my idea of perfection was simply too restrictive and confining. It didn't have anything to do with alignment. It was very judgmental, so I’ve dismissed it.

This was a good exercise for me. It’s always good to see things down on paper. Plus I really like lists and spreadsheets. They help me focus. I noticed that I didn’t include any skills that I really hate. I decided not to try to add any. I’ve dropped them and moved on. The big reveal for me is that I no longer enjoy making garments and that I don’t have too, very liberating. I will continue to sew but in different ways.

Goal

To show up for myself and my work.

Critique

This piece was my first foray into wall art, a move away from wearables. Hand dyed wool and silk, old threads and found elements. It’s entirely from my stash and I like that. Overall I am comfortable with the results. I learned a great during the doing of it and enjoyed the process.